Massachusetts House Passes the Children and Firefighters Protection Act
Boston, MA--In a move which could soon lead to more protection for firefighters and families, and improved public health and safety for Massachusetts residents, a crucial bill moved through the House of Representatives and over to the Senate this week. The Children and Firefighters Protection Act - H.4900, would enact a ban on certain flame retardants, prohibits the manufacture, sale or importation of any children’s product, bedding, carpet, window covering or residential upholstered furniture containing one of the 11 flame retardant chemicals named in the bill.
“All the credible research shows that flame retardants are not needed to meet modern fire safety standards. In fact firefighters and others are endangered by toxic smoke during fires when products that contain these dangerous chemicals burn,” said Elizabeth Saunders, Clean Water Action’s Massachusetts Director. “This bill is way overdue.”
Lawmakers passed a similar bill on New Year’s Day of 2019 -- the final day of the 2017-2018 session -- but Gov. Charlie Baker pocket vetoed it, saying at the time that he would have returned it with an amendment had the Legislature still been in session.
“It has literally been years we have been waiting for this bill to become law,” said Janet Domenitz, Director of MASSPIRG. “It was already passed by the Legislature once and got hung up at the end of the session. It is a top priority for firefighters, public health organizations, environmental groups, consumer advocates, and every day we wait means one thing: more exposure to cancerous toxic chemicals which should be eliminated.”
The bill is sponsored by State Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge. A similar bill (S.2349) sponsored by State Senator Cynthia Creem of Newton, passed the Senate in September 2019. The two houses must come to agreement on a single bill, which will then be sent to the Governor’s Desk.
Representative Decker said: “I’m really thankful that Speaker DeLeo along with Chairman Michlewitz have stood up for children and firefighters. This is a testament to what happens when lawmakers follow science over the chemical industry’s propaganda. Once again we have passed a bill to ban toxic flame retardants in children’s toys and furniture and hopefully this time, the Governor will choose to stand with public health and families and firefighters. This truly speaks to our values here in Massachusetts.”
"I am so pleased the House has acted to ban flame retardants," remarked Sen. Creem. "I filed the first bill in MA to remove these dangerous chemicals from homes and children’s products almost a decade ago. The science is there and delay only continues to risk the health of firefighters and children."
In a statement of support last year, Rich MacKinnon, President of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts (a 12,000 member association which supports the bill) said, "The concern we have is that (these flame retardants) are what is contributing to our high rate of cancer in firefighters. I attend all the funerals for the firefighters that died. A couple of times last year we had upwards of three or four in one week for firefighters that have died of cancer.”
With the legislative session extended due to the pandemic, passage of this bill would mean good news for public health in a year that sorely needs it.
MASSPIRG and Clean Water Action are both members of the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow - a coalition of public health advocates, environmental groups, labor unions, scientists, parents, doctors and others working to protect human health and the environment from toxic chemicals. The Alliance has supported this bill since 2013 and deeply appreciates the leadership of Senator Creem and Representative Decker as well as Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Karen Spilka, the Chairs of the House and Senate Ways & Means Committees--Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Senator Michael Rodriges, and the chairs of the Public Health Committee--Senator Jo Comerford and Rep. John Mahoney, all of whom have shown leadership in advancing this bill this session.